5 questions to ask new potential clients

5 Questions to ask a new potential clients [PMP #90]

Getting new clients is one of the hardest parts of going out on your own as a freelancer, consultant or coach. This is the part of the job that often holds people back. Especially in the beginning, it’s hard asking for money when you’re new to freelancing and don’t have an established track record.

Even when you are comfortable asking for the sale, there are certain things you should be asking new potential clients in order to streamline client onboarding.

In the last 2 years, I’ve completed 369 “introductory calls” in Pipedrive (affiliate link). And in this time I’ve experimented with asking many different questions.

Here are my top 5 favourite questions to ask new potential clients:

1. WHY this project? WHY me? WHY now? WHY not wait?

Jonathan Stark talks about having a WHY conversation:

  • Why have you decided to start this project now?
  • Why did you decide to reach out to me (instead of someone else)?
  • Why is this a priority now? Can it wait?

With each of these questions, it almost seems like you’re taking to talk the client out of working with you. Which you sort of are…

But as the client responds to each of these questions, they are giving you (and more importantly themselves) more and more reason why starting this project, with you, right now, is a good idea.

Answering these questions helps the client to justify to themselves that spending money on your service is a good idea.

2. What are your non-negotiables?

This is a nice question that gets the client to list their requirements plain and simple. I like the word “non-negotiable” as it gets you thinking about what the client has to have in order to make this project a success.

It also means that if you can’t deliver one of these “non-negotiables” for whatever reason, you can refer the client on to someone else. Better to know and deal with it now rather than start the project and have to have an awkward conversation later on.

3. What are your expectations of me?

This is another good question. Similar to the last, it gets the client (and you) thinking about what YOU need to do in order to meet their requirements. And this question can lead to more specific questions around:

  • Working location (onsite vs. remote).
  • Communication.
  • Response times and support.
  • Hidden costs.
  • Tools you might need to use.
  • People you might need to work with.

I like asking this question first so I can turn it around later and list some of the expectations I have of the client. People forget that even though the client is paying a fee, it’s a two-way relationship and an exchange in value. You have to work with them and be able to enjoy the work at the end of the day (why else would you work for yourself).

4. What problem are you trying to solve? OR What are the goals or outcomes you’re trying to achieve? (go deep)

It’s easy to forget that the service you provide and what you’re selling are two different things.

  • A developer might think they’re selling an optimised website. But what they’re really selling is a better user experience and higher sales.
  • A graphic designer isn’t selling podcast artwork, they’re selling brand equity.
  • And in my business, I’m not selling Asana training, I’m selling improved team collaboration and efficiency.

It’s the whole features vs. benefits comparison…

So when I’m talking to someone about my Asana consulting, I usually say something like:

“Okay, so you want to set up your account and make sure your team uses Asana well. But what problem are you hoping this will solve? Or what is the main goal you have for your team after they’re shown how to use Asana?”

If you don’t ask these questions, you risk ending the project where you’ve done everything you said you would, but the client feels like they’re no better off. This is because the work you’ve done hasn’t been connected with their problems or goals.

5. What is this worth to you? (cost or potential sales)

All of the previous questions lead to this last one. Understanding what your service is worth to the client is everything.

This could be cost savings, increased revenue, higher customer retention or fewer complaints. Whatever it is, make sure you understand the value you’re providing and, if possible, quantify this.

Trust me, this isn’t easy.

For example, when I’m working with a potential Pipedrive client, I really try to understand their business model, their pricing and how many customers they deal with. This allows me to make estimates of how my service could improve these numbers.

If you’re an independent worker, I’d love to hear what questions you like to ask new clients. Let me know in the comments below!